How to Convert Website Leads into Customers

SmallBizChat with Amit KumarEvery week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview withAmit Kumar @akumar.  Amit is founder & CEO of Lexity, Advertising on Autopilot, a Spark CapitalTrue Ventures and 500 Startups funded startup. Amit has deep expertise in Search, Semantic Web, Advertising and Networking; and has experience both founding startups and building new products for Fortune 500 companies. Previously at Yahoo! Web Search, he introduced Semantic Web technology to Search, invented SearchMonkey, filed 15+ patents, and managed publisher-focused products. For more information www.lexity.com

SmallBizLady: How can small business owners do a better job converting leads into customers?

Amit Kumar: It’s a fact that on average, only 2% of the visitors to a website will actually end up buying. The other 98% of your website traffic will leave forever. That’s a huge missed opportunity. When I talk about converting leads into customers I’m talking about what to do to capture the 98% of potential customers that will leave and never return. I will teach people how to turn those lost prospects into sales.

SmallBizLady: If I’m starting out with a new online store. What’s the first step I should take towards better conversion?

Amit Kumar: Get some analytics set up on your website. You can’t determine if you’re getting better at converting leads into customers if you’re not tracking and measuring it. If your store is built on a store platform, like Shopify.com or Magento.com or BigCommerce.com, odds are you already have some built-in analytics in your admin dashboard. Go find that dashboard and familiarize yourself with it. You may even want to see if there are options to set up automatic reports that are emailed directly to you. You specifically will want to find numbers that tell you:

1) How many visitors visit your website
2) How many visitors end up buying

You can then find these statistics for a given time period, then divide the second number by the first, to calculate what percentage of your visitors actually convert to customers.

SmallBizLady: What if your store platform doesn’t have those kind of statistics available easily to you, or you’re not on a store platform?

Amit Kumar: Check out Google Analytics. It’s a free analytics solution that can be plugged in to pretty much any website. Otherwise, and this is a shameless plug for one of our own products, you can check out our own real-time analytics tool, Lexity Live, which tracks all your site visitors in real time. It’s free and works with any website.

SmallBizLady: If I know my overall conversion rate. What’s the next most useful thing I should do?

Amit Kumar: Next, identify your conversion “funnel”. Your conversion funnel is the series of pages through which your customer typically progresses to convert into a sale. The last page should be your target page for a conversion, meaning, when the customer arrives at the last page, that’s when they count as a sale. For example, you might decide your funnel is: 1) homepage, 2) product page, 3) shopping cart, 4) checkout, 5) confirmation.

Set up this funnel as a “goal” in Google Analytics. You can do a search for “how to set up a goal in Google Analytics” to find plenty of sets of instructions for this. Now, you’ll be able to track what percentage of your customers progress from one step of your funnel to the next, and what percentage drop off, or leave that funnel. When a person leaves the funnel, it means you’ve probably lost them as a customer.

Now, identify where your highest drop-off rate is. For example, 60% of the visitors who visit your homepage may end up progressing to view a product page; that means 40% dropped off. Out of the people who make it to a product page, maybe only 30% progress to the shopping cart; that means 70% dropped off, which is a higher drop-off rate. The higher the dropoff rate, the more likely it is there’s something you could improve on that page to avoid losing customers. For example, in the above scenario, you may now want to focus in on improving your product pages; are they lacking compelling descriptions, is the “add to cart” button hard to find, or does the product need more photos?

SmallBizLady: Once you’ve brainstormed all the things you might want to fix about those pages, how do you actually figure out which one is the real problem?

Amit Kumar: I recommend what’s called A/B testing to optimize the page. A/B testing helps you “try out” different versions of your site on your customers. Then, you can see how your conversion rates vary based on which version of your site a customer sees, and decide which one is performing best. It’s a very quantitative way to make decisions on how to improve your site. You can try services like Optimizely for A/B testing.

SmallBizLady: What other services or tactics would you recommend for converting leads into sales?

Amit Kumar: There are a lot of good options. You could focus on trying to coax more people to continue down the funnel–basically work on improving the retention rate at each stage in your funnel. Email marketing is good for that. You could focus on trying to convert people who look like they’re about to leave the funnel by dropping off your site–chat and couponing are two good options for that. Or, you could focus on trying to win back people who have already left the funnel. Retargeting ads are a good option for that.

SmallBizLady: How do you coax more people down the funnel with email marketing? What’s step 1 for email marketing?

Amit Kumar: First, just get the low hanging fruit and put an email subscription form on your site. By which I mean, add a simple, one-field form to your homepage that says something like “Subscribe for updates!” that will let you capture emails that people enter. Make it really easy for people to give you their email addresses.

SmallBizLady: So then how do you use the email addresses you collect for email marketing?

Amit Kumar: These people are ripe for email marketing. That means stuff like newsletters, promotions, updates on new features or releases, that kind of thing. They’ve shown enough interest to give you their email address, so they’re potential customers. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two popular and affordable options for email marketing services for small businesses. We’ve been using one, Contactology, that’s been really great for the price as well, even though it’s not as well known.

There’s also transactional email marketing. That’s kind of the next level up, it’s a bit more complicated, but it can be very profitable. Transactional email is email that is triggered by a specific action taken by the user on your site. I’d particularly recommend focusing on setting up transactional email triggered by cart abandonment. This means when people put stuff in the cart, get partway through the checkout, and then leave your site. So you can email those people to remind them about their cart. Jilt is one service that specifically helps you set up cart abandonment transactional emails.

SmallBizLady: How can a small business owner use chat and couponing to keep people in the funnel?

Amit Kumar: Sure! Both are great ways to help customers who are on the fence about purchasing, get over that fence.

Chat clients enable your customers to easily and conveniently ask you any questions they might have that are preventing them from buying something right now. LiveChat, Olark, and Zopim are a few options. Incidentally, putting a contact form on your site is another way of accomplishing this, though adding chat as well is better because then they can contact you immediately from any page on your site.

Automatically offering coupons to customers, scheduled to be sent to them a certain amount of time after they’ve been inactive, is another effective tactic. For example, one week after a customer creates an account on your site, if they haven’t done anything, you can send them a 10% discount coupon. This can be set up through an email service (you can check out instructions on how to set this up in MailChimp, for example, here: http://blog.mailchimp.com/howtosendautomatedcouponfollowup/), or some ecommerce platforms specifically offer plugins or add-ons that can do this.

SmallBizLady: Can you also talk about getting back people who’ve already left the funnel by using retargeting?

Amit Kumar: Retargeting helps you win back lost customers by reminding them of your product or service while they are browsing the Internet elsewhere. Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a marketing tactic where you show customers display ads (also known as banner ads) on *other* sites they are browsing, *after* they have left your site without buying. Basically you’re trying to keep yourself top of mind so that they keep thinking about going back to your site to buy after all. Retargeting can be kind of tricky to set up, actually, which is why many small businesses don’t end up using this tactic even though it can be very effective. Options for retargeting services include AdRoll and Fetchback. At this point I’m also going to put in another shameless plug too, for our own retargeting service, Lexity Retargeting.

SmallBizLady: Given all the options we’ve discussed, what are the top three tools you suggest our listeners focus on?

Amit Kumar: First, get your analytics set up. Second, set up a chat client on your website. And third, give retargeting a shot.

SmallBizLady: What is the number one mistake people make when it comes to converting leads into sales?

Amit Kumar: The #1 mistake is focusing on the 2% that are already sold. People tend to focus too much on that 2%, and not spending enough time figuring out where the other 98% of lost sales are going. That’s where your growth potential is. If there’s one takeaway from this, that’s what it is: Focus on the 98%!

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/S797e

For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.

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